Red is one of the three primary colours in painting.
It is at the end of the visible spectrum of light, next to orange and opposite violet.
In physics, red is the longest wavelength of light discernible to the human eye. It falls in the range of 620–750 nanometres in the visible spectrum.
In art, red is a colour on the conventional wheel, located between violet and orange and opposite green, its complement.
Pigments for red come from madder, red lead, red ochre, cinnabar, and artificial chemical compounds.
Reds range from the brilliant yellow-tinged scarlet and vermillion to bluish-red crimson, and vary in shade from the pale red pink to the dark red burgundy.
Red was the first basic colour term added to languages after black and white. The word red derives from Sanskrit rudhira and Proto-Germanic rauthaz.
One of the first written records of the term is from an Old English translation (897 AD) of Pope St. Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care: “On thæs sacerdes hrægle sceoldœn hangian bellan & ongemong thæm bellum reade apla” (“On the priest’s robes should hang bells and among the bells red pomegranates”).
While red is the color most associated with love, it also the color most frequently associated with hatred, anger, aggression and war.
Red pigment made from ochre was one of the first colors used in prehistoric art.
In ancient Egypt, red was associated with life, health, and victory. Egyptians would color themselves with red ochre during celebrations. Egyptian women used red ochre as a cosmetic to redden cheeks and lips and also used henna to color their hair and paint their nails.
In Christianity, red is associated with the blood of Christ and the sacrifice of martyrs. In the Roman Catholic Church it is also associated with pentecost and the Holy Spirit.
In Buddhism, red is one of the five colors which are said to have emanated from the Buddha when he attained enlightenment, or nirvana.
In the Shinto religion of Japan, the gateways of temples, called torii, are traditionally painted vermilion red and black. The torii symbolizes the passage from the profane world to a sacred place. The bridges in the gardens of Japanese temples are also painted red.
In Paganism, red represents passion, courage, strength, and intense emotions. It is used for love, physical energy, health, and willpower.
In China, red is the symbol of fire and the south. It carries a largely positive connotation, being associated with courage, loyalty, honor, success, fortune, fertility, happiness, passion, and summer. In Japan, red is a traditional color for a heroic figure. In the Indian subcontinent, red is the traditional color of bridal dresses, and is frequently represented in the media as a symbolic color for married women. In Central Africa, Ndembu warriors rub themselves with red paint during celebrations. Since their culture sees the color as a symbol of life and health, sick people are also painted with it. Like most Central African cultures, the Ndembu see red as ambivalent, better than black but not as good as white. In other parts of Africa, however, red is a color of mourning,representing death.
Red is one of the most common colors used on national flags. The use of red has similar connotations from country to country: the blood, sacrifice, and courage of those who defended their country – the sun and the hope and warmth it brings – and the sacrifice of Christ’s blood (in some historically Christian nations) are a few examples.
The first known team sport to feature red uniforms was chariot racing during the late Roman Empire. The earliest races were between two chariots, one driver wearing red, the other white. Later, the number of teams was increased to four, including drivers in light green and sky blue. Twenty-five races were run in a day, with a total of one hundred chariots participating.
Beginning in the Middle Ages, the Pope and Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church wore red to symbolize the blood of Christ and the Christian martyrs.
The banner of the Christian soldiers in the First Crusade was a red cross on a white field, the St. George’s Cross. According to Christian tradition, Saint George was a Roman soldier who was a member of the guards of the Emperor Diocletian, who refused to renounce his Christian faith and was martyred. The Saint George’s Cross became the Flag of England in the 16th century, and now is part of the Union Flag of the United Kingdom, as well as the Flag of the Republic of Georgia.
In Renaissance painting, red was used to draw the attention of the viewer – it was often used as the color of the cloak or costume of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or another central figure. In Venice, Titian was the master of fine reds, particularly vermilion – he used many layers of pigment mixed with
a semi-transparent glaze, which let the light pass through, to create a more luminous color.
Red hair occurs naturally on approximately 1–2% of the human population.
Mars is called the Red Planet because of the reddish color imparted to its surface by the abundant iron oxide present there.